AFRICAN FOOTBALL NEEDS OVERHAULING TO COMPETE WITH OTHER CONTINENTS – OKOCHA
Nigeria's former star, Jay-Jay Okocha, says African football needs to “go back to the drawing board” if it is to succeed in future World Cups. The 36-year-old said that African nations were not going “that extra mile to get results”.
Okocha blamed a lack of investment in local coaches and youth players, adding that the continent's big stars had not delivered on the world's biggest stage. “It's about character. Our players have not shown enough passion,” he said.
“It's an African tournament – we thought we could capitalise on that. That hasn't been the story.” South Africa is the first World Cup host that has not progressed past the first round despite beating France on Wednesday.
And, while Ghana also recorded a group win, the four other African nations competing – Algeria, Cameroon, Nigeria and Ivory Coast – have struggled.
“I think the players have failed to understand that they need to go that extra mile to be able to get results,” added Okocha. “They are not looking for the solution on how to win games. We go back to our drawing boards and invest in youth and start planning.
“In Africa, I don't think we plan enough. We always wait for an event and then get ourselves ready for just that event.” Okocha, like all of Africa's biggest sporting names, has spent the majority of his footballing career abroad, playing for European clubs, including Bolton and Hull. He believes that if African football is to move on, coaches as well as players should look to foreign leagues to gain expertise and professionalism.
“I thought that the officials should be given the opportunity to go abroad and update themselves – but we haven't done that. We've not invested in our local coaches,” Okocha commented.
“After going to Europe to prove yourself as a player, you come back to that old mentality – that old way of playing.
“Then sometimes players get caught in the middle. They try to bring you down to their level – and if you don't want to come down to that level, it's as if you're losing your culture, losing your respect.”
Okocha, who retired from football in 2008, had scathing words for some of Africa's better known players, criticising their performances at the Mundial when compared to what they did for their clubs.
“I don't have to cover up those players because they haven't really performed. They've underachieved,” he said.
“It's all about character. I don't think our players have shown enough passion for the game. That's the difference between the way they've played here, and the way they play in their various clubs.”